Draft prospects make their cases

From defensive tackles talking about their strength and ability to play in multiple systems, to experienced safeties who are putting on weight, to productive running backs making their way out of inner-city violence, draft prospects (some that would look good in purple) are opening up to Scout.com.

Clemson safety Michael Hamlin has added some muscle weight during his offseason training in Pensacola, Florida. 

He told Scout.com this week that he weighed in at 201 pounds upon his arrival at the facility, but now weighs 210 pounds.

"I feel great, I feel a whole lot stronger since I've been working out down here," he said. "I can really feel the difference in my lower body. I feel more explosive, especially coming out of my starts when I'm running."

Hamlin, the only four-year starter in Clemson's football program in 2008, was on the field for a total of 828 snaps during his senior year. That total was 129 more than any other Tigers defender, a tribute to Hamlin's conditioning and durability.

He finished his senior year with a team-leading six interceptions and ten passes broken up.  His 110 tackles was the second-highest on the team and was a career-best, topping his 97 stops during his junior year. 

Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace not only believes that he can make the transition to the next level as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, he also sees himself as a good candidate to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.

"I'm a big guy who can hold his own in the middle, and I believe I can take up two gaps at once," he told Scout.com. "A lot of people call me a space-eater and a bruiser, but I also want people to see that I'm more than that. That's how people looked at Albert Haynesworth earlier in his career, but now he's seen as a dual threat in the pass rush and as a mauler on the line. 

"That's something I'm trying to do right now, so I'm training with the same person down in Atlanta who helped him with his pass rushing skills, Chuck Smith."

David Veikune on the move during January's Senior Bowl game in Mobile, Alabama.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

During his senior year, Hawaii's David Veikune showed off his ability to get into the opponent's backfield, logging an impressive nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss.  

Admired for his work ethic in the weight room and on the field, the 6-foot-2, 255-pound defensive end is a humble and quiet person who was quick to share the credit for his performance.

"It's really a tribute to the great coaching that I've gotten both in Hawaii and Colorado," he told Scout.com last week. "I've had four of five different position coaches, and I've just tried to take everything that I've learned from them and put it out there on the field."

Veikune, who was originally a redshirt freshman at the University of Colorado, spent a year at Fresno City College before heading to the University of Hawaii for his sophomore season. And while he notched seven sacks during his junior year, he didn't become a full-time starter until the 2008 season. With the right coaching at the next level, he should continue to build upon his success.

"The NFL has the best coaches in the land, and I can't wait to start working with them," he said. " I know I'll learn some new techniques from them, and I'll continue to get stronger and faster.

"I'm a versatile player and a guy who just wants to keep getting better to help his team win."

Oregon running back Jeremiah Johnson grew up in a tough section of Los Angeles that could have influenced him to choose an entirely different path for his life. 

"Where I grew up there was a lot of gang violence and a lot of things that can get you in trouble," he told Scout.com during Senior Bowl week. "But one thing my mom instilled in my head was that we didn't have the money to pay for a college education, so get good grades and excel in your sports. 

"And that's what I've been doing. I've been playing football since I was seven years old. When I was playing Pop Warner, I was trying to play at the high-school level, in high school, I was trying to play at the college level. At the college level, I tried to play like I was at the NFL level. And hopefully, if I get in this league, I'm going to try to accelerate my level to play like a Hall of Famer. That's just how I take it."

Johnson's face lights up when he talks about his family, a clear indication of the deep emotions he has for them.  

"I have a brother and a younger sister, my mom and my grandmother - we call them 'The Committee,'" he said with a laugh. "They help me in many ways. That's my family, I love them, that's my blood. 

"It's been a long process for us, but we are dwelling in this happiness as we're embarking on this great journey. And we can't wait until April comes around." 

Johnson rushed for 1,201 yards during his senior year and ranks first in Oregon history with a 6.7 yards-per-carry career average among all rushers who accumulated at least 2,000 yards.

Click the player names to learn more about Michael Hamlin, Ron Brace, David Veikune, and Jeremiah Johnson.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

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